Two students suspected of shooting nine classmates, one fatally, in their Colorado charter school appeared in court Wednesday to face dozens of criminal charges that included murder and attempted murder.
The parents of the teen who was killed in the attack looked on before attending to their son’s memorial service. Senior Kendrick Castillo was just days from graduating when he was slain while trying to stop one of the gunmen during the May 7 attack at the STEM School Highlands Ranch, not far from the scene of the 1999 Columbine massacre.
Investigators say the accused assailants, 18-year-old Devon Erickson and 16-year-old Alec McKinney, opened fire with handguns. They were arrested at the school.
While court documents are sealed, the charges against the teenagers listed in electronic court records also included theft and arson. Prosecutors said both will be tried as adults. McKinney’s attorney, Ara Ohanian, said she would seek to move McKinney’s case back to juvenile court.
Judge Theresa Slade denied the prosecution’s request to make some of the documents public but said she would address the issue at the next hearing on June 7.
Erickson appeared more involved in Wednesday’s proceedings compared with his initial court appearance last week. His face was visible, and he looked forward toward the judge while attorneys discussed the case.
He wore a jail uniform and was kept shackled at his wrists and ankles after the judge denied a request to remove them.
McKinney appeared in court after Erickson. He glanced back several times during the hearing toward the bench where his mother was sitting.
Castillo’s parents also attended the hearing. His father stared at both defendants.
“It would have been easy for them to say, ‘I’m not going to make it to court today because in less than two hours we’re going to have a memorial service for our son,'” District Attorney George Brauchler said of Castillo’s parents. “But from the word go they have made it clear that our intention is to be here for every single hearing.”
Brauchler also revealed that he has asked an outside prosecutor to investigate whether charges should be filed against a private security guard who has been credited with apprehending one of the suspects in a school hallway.
Brauchler did not explain why the security guard would face charges. A law enforcement official told The Associated Press last week that the guard, a former Marine who has not been named, fired his weapon during the shooting.
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Two news organizations citing anonymous sources reported that authorities are investigating whether the guard mistakenly fired at a responding sheriff’s deputy and may have wounded a student.
Brauchler did not directly address those reports.
“This is a witness in the case, and I felt like in the abundance of caution that a decision about the facts related to the security guard needed to be addressed by a separate prosecutor,” Brachler said.
The security guard’s attorney, Robert Burk, said last week that his client acted to protect the children at the school. Burk did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Wednesday.
A line of Jeeps and trucks stretched along a Highlands Ranch roadway ahead of the service to honor Castillo, who was a Jeep and off-road vehicle enthusiast. The motorcade was led by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
Castillo and classmates Brendan Bialy and Joshua Jones were credited with helping minimize the bloodshed by charging at one of the suspects in a classroom.
According to Bialy, Castillo sprang into action against the shooter “and immediately was on top of him with complete disregard for his own safety.” Jones said he was shot twice in the leg during the ordeal. Bialy said he was able to take the attacker’s weapon.
Jones, 18, said Tuesday that he is recovering quickly from his wounds, but said emotionally he’s “still in a bit of a funk.”
He told reporters during a news conference that he was in the middle of helping to pin down the shooter when he called his mom.
“It was really just something like, ‘Hey, Mom. There’s been a school shooting. I’ve been involved. The authorities are on the way. They’re going to get an ambulance, and I’m going to go to the hospital. That’s all I got right now for you,'” he said.
All of the wounded students have been released from hospitals.
The shooting happened nearly three weeks after the neighboring town of Littleton marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School attack that killed 13 people. The two schools are separated by about 7 miles (11 kilometers) south of Denver.
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